"It's just good rugby banter" - Sam Cane holds no grudges against Peter O'Mahony
Welcome to Wellington, for those of you that have not been before.
In the teeming rain, after a hit-out at Hutt Recreation Ground, All Blacks captain Sam Cane was surrounded by Kiwi media and asked to pick over his side's weekend defeat to Ireland.
"The situation is not what we wanted, but now we look at it and embrace it," the Chiefs back-row said. "It's a good challenge for us. It’s do or die, it’s just like World Cup stuff, so we’re looking forward to it."
After a decent performance in the First Test victory, at Eden Park, Cane was not the only All Blacks starter to drop off in Dunedin, as Ireland readjusted their tactics and fired back with a much more physical performance. Even before the game, Stuart Barnes, in The Times, had called for the 30-year-old to be dropped for this Saturday's Third Test.
Ian Foster is highly likely to stick with Cane and Ardie Savea in his back row, and may reunite them with Scott Barrett as lock Sam Whitelock will return to the second row. The ABs skipper described emotions in the camp as "angry" and "disappointed" after the 23-12 reversal. He added:
"We were hugely disappointed with what we dished out on Saturday. We need to be so much better. Our drive is the fact we have pride in the jersey, we’re not happy with what we put out and we’ll be working hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again."
At the end of his five-minute chat with the assembled press, at the Lower Hutt training facilities, Cane was asked about his weekend exchange of words with Ireland flanker, Peter O'Mahony.
'Just good rugby banter' - Sam Cane
Peter O'Mahony and Sam Cane have been battling away for a decade, at this stage. The pair first crossed paths when O'Mahony was on his first tour of New Zealand, in 2012, and Cane made his first start, in the Third Test.
The All Blacks won 60-0 that day, with Cane - having shifted Richie McCaw to the No.8 jersey - scoring two tries. The 3-0 scoreline in that tour, 10 years ago, and further defeats for Ireland  and the Lions  saw O'Mahony slip to an 0-5 record against New Zealand.
He was only returning from a knee injury in 2016, when Ireland beat New Zealand in Chicago, but was man-of-the-match in his country's first ever home win over the ABs, in 2018. He picked up a second Test win over the Kiwis in November 2021 and last Saturday's victory in Dunedin has improved his career record to 3-6 against them.
O'Mahony knows how hard it is to topple the All Blacks, and he knows what a fierce competitor Sam Cane is. Still, if there is a moment to get some choice words in, you are not going to stop the Munster captain.
So it was on Saturday when, late in the piece with Ireland leading 23-7, Cane was cribbing at referee Jaco Peyper after Josh van der Flier had held the ball up as Brodie Retallick crashed over the tryline. The ref's mic reportedly picked up O'Mahony saying:
"Who do you think you are? You’re a shit Richie McCaw, pal!"
McCaw is the greatest All Black to ever don their famous No.7 jersey, so there is not much of a response that could be fired back other than the four-letter word variety. Or, if he so chose, asking O'Mahony to show him his World Cup winners' medal.
Cane was asked about the back-and-forth with the final question of a post-training huddle with reporters, and was diplomatic with his response.
He let out a short chuckle when asked about 'what Peter O'Mahony may, or may not, have said on the goal-line'. Asked to elaborate on what words had been exchanged, captain Cane said:
"No, that's just good rugby banter. It's all part of the game. I don't mind it. No, it's good stuff."
For anyone that has a Kiwi or two [or more] in their life, they will recognise the way in which he handled the question. Couple of sniffs, laid-back drawl and the claim that it is no worries at all.
This stuff happens on the time, out on the pitch, but most of it is never picked up on. This time, Jaco Peyper just had a front-row seat to that 'Richie McCaw' line.
To Cane, and plenty of Kiwis, the phrase, he who laughs last, laughs loudest.
It will be fascinating to see who gets the last laugh between these two warriors on Saturday at Sky Stadium in Wellington. As for the weather in 'Welly', there are expected to be showers, earlier in the day, but clearing by kick-off with a Southerly wind.
Stream the biggest sporting moments with NOW, including all the Test match between Ireland and New Zealand, on Saturday July 16.
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